Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida dies aged 95

Gina Lollobrigida dies at the age of 95
Gina Lollobrigida dies at the age of 95   -   Copyright  Lionel Cironneau/AP
By David Mouriquand  & Agencies

Italian cinema mourns one of its greatest stars.

Actress and photographer Gina Lollobrigida has died at the age of 95.

Best known to the public for her films in the 1950s, including Christian Jaque’s Fanfan La Tulipe (1952) and the Silver Bear winning Italian film Pane, amore e fantasia (Break, Love and Dreams) (1953), Lollobrigida became an international star and one of the highest-profile European actresses of her generation.

Born on 4 July 1927 in Subiaco (Italy), Lollobrigida was noticed by the film world in a photo-novel in which she posed under the pseudonym Diana Loris, while she was studying at the Beaux-Arts and taking part in beauty contests.

For years, she was cast for her physical assets and status as a sex symbol, leading many to say that she was "the best thing that has happened since the invention of spaghetti" and describing her as "the most beautiful woman in the world."

Getty
Gina LollobrigidaGetty

Her performance in Bread, Love and Dreams led to it becoming a box-office success and she continued to work in the French cinema industry on such films as Les Belles de nuit (Beauties of the Night) (1952) and Le Grand Jeu (1954).

She was then directed by John Huston in Beat the Devil (1953) in which she played the wife of Humphrey Bogart. Roles in Crossed Swords (1954), co-starring Errol Flynn, Beautiful But Dangerous (1955), Carol Reed’s Trapeze (1956), as well as her turn as Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, led to more critical acclaim.

United Artists
Poster for TrapezeUnited Artists

Over the next few years, she would star with the likes of Yves Montand (The Law - 1959), Frank Sinatra (Never So Few - 1959) and Yul Brynner (Solomon and Sheba - 1959). She won a Golden Globe Award for her turn in the romantic comedy Come September (1961), in which she had a leading role alongside Rock Hudson.

"I knew right away that Rock Hudson was gay," she told one reporter, "when he did not fall in love with me."

She is also remembered for starring alongside Sean Connery in the thriller Woman of Straw (1964) and with Alec Guinness in Hotel Paradiso (1966).

SCREEN PROD PHOTONONSTOP
Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956)SCREEN PROD PHOTONONSTOP

By the 1970s, her film career had slowed down and in 1973, she stopped filming for good in order to and take up photography. She had a successful second career as a photographic journalist and photographed, among others, Salvador Dalí, Henry Kissinger, Audrey Hepburn and Ella Fitzgerald.

She did, however, make occasional appearances afterwards, notably at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1986 where she was president of the jury.

JEAN BAPTISTE LACROIX/2018 Getty Images
Gina LollobrigidaJEAN BAPTISTE LACROIX/2018 Getty Images

She came back to the screen in 1995 for a part in the French comedy Les cent et une nuits de Simon Cinéma (One Hundred and One Nights) directed by Agnès Varda, alongside Marcello Mastroianni, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Catherine Deneuve, Robert De Niro, Jane Birkin and Michel Piccoli.

She was made a Chevalière de la Légion d'honneur and an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by Jack Lang in 1985 for her achievements in photography, and was awarded the Légion d'honneur by François Mitterrand.

Appointed Goodwill Ambassador in 1999 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, she ran in the same year for the European elections as number 2 on the list of Antonio Di Pietro, the former anti-corruption magistrate, without being elected.

Lollobrigida is survived by her son, Milko, and grandson, Dimitri.